My death row romance is finished, reveals Richey
KENNY Richey, the Scot on death row in the United States, has ended his long-distance engagement to the woman who spearheaded his fight for freedom.
The 41-year-old inmate, who is facing execution for the murder of a two-year-old, revealed last night that he has split from Karen Torley, of Cambuslang, and turned back to his American ex-wife, who divorced Richey 20 years ago and has a son by him.
In a series of frank telephone calls from Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio, he admitted that he and Ms Torley - who became engaged eight years ago - have maintained a public faade for the past 12 months, but in private have drifted apart during that time as he courted Wendy Richey from behind bars.
"I never realised I loved Wendy as much as I did - I thought I hated her with a passion, because for 20 years she kept my son from me. But we started talking after my son came to visit me last year and I thought: 'My God, I love this woman'," he explained.
"I still love Karen but I'm not in love with her. I wish her luck in life and I wish her the best, but I can't keep going on the way I am. I'm just being torn apart.
"I'm grateful for everything she's done and for her love, but things kicked off with my ex-wife and I'm playing both sides. It needs to stop."
Ms Torley, a mother of four, has campaigned for Richey's release for more than a decade after she first learned about him through a television documentary. Her letter-writing crusades, website and other publicity efforts, drew support from scores of MPs and MSPs and helped to keep up pressure on US authorities as his case bounced around the judicial system.
They first spoke in 1996 and became engaged two years later, when he proposed believing that one day he would be freed and they could celebrate with a wedding.
But Richey and Ms Torley have never touched; on death row, relationships and intimacies are played out by letter, 15-minute telephone calls and the occasional meeting on opposite sides of a glass partition.
Despite his fiance's public declaration three weeks ago that she was looking forward to visiting him this summer and planned to give him "a hug and a big sloppy kiss" after prison chiefs agreed that the screen could be removed, Richey said that he wants her to "let go".
"Our relationship has been over for a while now. She keeps it up so as far as anyone else is concerned the relationship is still on. She says she doesn't want to look stupid and wants to maintain it," he said. "She writes all that stuff on the website but I've not written anything in over a year. To be honest, I have encouraged it slightly."
He said he had also received advice from Max Clifford, the publicist, who has been hired by Ms Torley.
"I told Max about this. He told me to keep it to ourselves," he said. "But family is very important. Being able to have the opportunity to interact with Sean and Wendy is something I'm extremely happy about. I thank God we have been given that opportunity, I'm just sorry things went sour with Karen.
"She invested 12 years of her life - she got books out of it, she's talking about a movie, doing a play. I don't talk to Karen any more. Last time I tried to call her was Monday but she wouldn't accept the charges."
Richey, originally from Edinburgh, was sentenced to death in 1987 after being convicted of murdering a little girl, Cynthia Collins, by setting fire to her mother's apartment in Columbus Grove, Ohio. He has always denied any involvement.
His conviction and sentence were ruled unsafe and thrown out last year by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, but that decision was later overturned by the US Supreme Court, crushing hopes of an imminent release. A new appeals court review is pending, but Richey admits that at times he despairs.
"Who knows if I'm going to win or not any more?" he said yesterday. "There's a good chance I'll be executed. The US Supreme Court wants me dead. The judges blew everybody away with that decision."
Richey moved to the US to live with his American father in 1982 and married Wendy after meeting her in Minnesota two years later, while serving in the US Marines. They divorced in 1986, shortly before the fire that landed Richey in prison.
Their son, Sean - named after Richey's favourite actor, Sean Connery - was just four months old at the time and, until last year, had not seen his father since. Now aged 20 and a father himself, he is currently on a drug rehabilitation course to wean himself off marijuana, Richey said.
"It felt good to see my son again. It was fantastic, it's unbelievable how like me he is. The biggest thing is his attitude, his character, the way he thinks like me, same personality, same attitude," Richey said, joking: "And he's the spitting image, though I don't know if that's a good thing."
He added: "I felt I owed it to him and my family to try again. Wendy and I divorced in April 1986, but as I keep reminding her, I never signed the divorce papers. Now we are getting along smashing. We are more mature, we know what we want.
"Wendy realises the guy I used to be and I wasn't very pleasant. She realises now that I've changed a great deal. I'm a more controlled person - I still have a lot of hate and anger and rage in me but I control it. I'm more ready to accept things - setbacks especially, God knows I've had plenty of them."
The campaign to keep him from the electric chair has been funded largely by Ms Torley from her own money.
But she warned earlier this month that the campaign was in danger of collapse due to lack of funds and Richey acknowledged yesterday that he believes it is "dead in the water", though his Boston-based lawyer, Ken Parsigian, continues to handle his legal case.
"I don't think Karen will carry on, she'll drop the campaign now. I won't be surprised if she wants to bad-mouth me but I don't want to lower myself and go on the attack," he said.
Richey has given up smoking after a cancer scare a few weeks ago, when tests showed that he had a swollen prostate, though he has now been given the all-clear. For a while, he said, he feared that he may be suffering from prostate cancer like his American father, James Richey, 68, who is currently in remission.
Speaking from his home in Washington state, Mr Richey Snr said yesterday that he keeps in regular touch with his former daughter-in-law, who lives in Minnesota, works as a civil servant and has kept Richey's surname for over two decades.
"To me, Kenny's relationship with Wendy and Sean is something very special. Maybe he will find some happiness out of all this," he said.
"This has gone on for quite a long time and Kenny finally did tell Karen about it and Karen suggested that we keep it under wraps because Kenny would lose support. So we kept it under wraps. But I think it's gone on long enough, it's about time that the relationship was made public.
"I'm proud of him, I'm very pleased about it, it shows me that he has become a lot more mature in his outlook on things and shouldering responsibility.
"Don't get me wrong, if this had never happened and Karen had remained his fiance I would have been pleased about that as well. Karen is a hard-working girl who deserves a lot of credit for getting Kenny's name in public and for working so hard at it.
"She deserves that credit. She did it. But at the same time this family has worked very hard towards his freedom as well. We'll still be here for him."
From Edinburgh to dead man walking in Ohio
24 December, 1982: Kenny Richey, aged 18, leaves Edinburgh to live with his father in Ohio. Two years later, he moves to Brainerd, Minnesota, and gets married.
April 1986: His marriage to Wendy ends in divorce.
30 June, 1986: Fire engulfs apartment of Hope Collins, Richey's former girlfriend, killing her two-year-old daughter, Cynthia.
10 July, 1986: Richey is charged with arson and aggravated murder.
8 January, 1987: Richey is found guilty and sentenced to death. Years of appeals ensue, during which 13 dates for his execution are set.
1995: Karen Torley launches campaign for Richey's release, three years after seeing a documentary on his case. Her campaign draws support from the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
5 November, 1996: Richey and Ms Torley speak for the first time when he calls her from prison. He proposes two years later and she adopts his surname.
March 2004: 150 MPs sign a Commons motion backing Richey's claim of innocence.
2 August, 2004: Lawyers for the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, file court papers in the US expressing doubts over Richey's conviction.
25 January, 2005: Appeal court throws out conviction, ordering that Richey be retried or released within 90 days. Richey celebrates with a telephone call to his fiance, but prosecutors appeal the decision.
20 April, 2005: Richey meets his son, Sean, for the first time since his divorce in 1986. Communications resume with former wife Wendy.
28 November, 2005: The US Supreme Court orders the appeal judges to re-examine their decision.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west